In the consumer world, when we think of video today, we think of Netflix. The company has grown from one innovative business model to another, and continues to exceed the expectations of financial analysts in terms of its fiscal performance. But it also has been quietly raising the bar for its subscribers by providing a seamless viewing experience. Netflix users enjoy on-demand streaming of thousands of hours of movies and TV shows in full resolution high-definition, or even ultra-HD 4K resolution at an additional cost. Even more impressive, Netflix is able to deliver this to customers with minimal lag, and at such scale that the subscriber's own internet speed is almost irrelevant. As of 2017, Netflix can stream content with minimal buffering interruptions to users with connections as slow as 300KB per second.
Netflix is able to flex its considerable business influence to accomplish this. It partners directly with internet service providers to host content on their own servers. Combined with its own content delivery networks, the company is able to connect users to the fastest connection every time they press play, resulting in a viewing experience that is as "chill" as subscribers have come to expect.
While some organizations utilizing unified communications solutions may not be able to match the size and influence of Netflix, their enterprise video performance still should make them envious. Fortunately, by choosing the right UC partners and thinking critically about video content delivery, businesses can give their colleagues and partners a similarly exceptional video streaming experience to make telepresence efforts run smooth every day.
Making telepresence work for businesses
According to Computer Weekly, telepresence solutions are expected to see significant investment from businesses in the coming years as more of them look for ways to cut costs related to in-person meetings. Hosting a video conference tends to be much cheaper and logistically feasible than coordinating travel between far-flung clients. The same may be true when it comes to working with remote colleagues in a UC-enabled organization. But when the technology underlying videoconferencing is not up to par, the experience will usually be unpleasant for everyone involved.
Today, it is possible to design and implement telepresence solutions in a business that facilitate near-seamless communication between people, at lower cost and greater convenience compared to traveling to do the same in some cases. Targeted investment in core technologies makes this possible and cost-effective, but it's not always easy to know precisely where those resources should be allocated. A high-end "telepresence room" with cutting-edge features like eye tracking cameras and directional microphones could cost as much as $300,000 to outfit. On the other hand, it's possible to achieve a workable telepresence solution that's practical on a smaller scale, and on a smaller budget.
Technical considerations on the backend of telepresence systems
The factors that most influence the cost of a telepresence system are not usually the cameras and microphones, but the systems working behind the scenes to transmit data seamlessly. Some crucial components to most enterprise telepresence systems include:
- High-end video codecs to encode and decode data as it flows in and out.
- Bridges, gateways and video conferencing multi-point control units that connect multiple endpoints. These systems may also handle the system's security, external connectivity and any transcoding between different codecs.
- Networking platforms designed to handle high data throughput.
The networking requirements of enterprise video conferencing systems are particularly demanding. If you will recall from the previous discussion about Netflix, that company needed to invest significant time and resources into ensuring high-quality video streaming to most of its users with minimal interruptions. Within the context of enterprise video conferencing, this may be the most important and most difficult feat in the entire project. According to Computer Weekly, the average video call could require between 4 to 6 Mbps of network throughput to ensure high resolution video and crystal-clear audio. This may require adding onto existing network capacity and enlisting the help of a network designer.
Session Initiation Protocol
Another important characteristic found in well-designed telepresence systems includes the use of Session Initiation Protocol. SIP is a set of digital communications standards used to facilitate enterprise communications functions including voice, video, instant text messaging and much more. In the context of telepresence, SIP is the standard on which most back-end network architecture for this purpose is built.
SIP is the ideal standard for high-quality video conferencing because it enables end-to-end signaling using a common language of sorts. The primary objective of a media session over SIP is to allow two unique systems to get on the same page with each other in terms of how to carry out the call. Then, the two systems can determine the best data transmission rates to use based on predefined limits, and operate within each system's own security protocols and other essential networking components.
SIP is commonly found in UC solutions because it facilitates multiple forms of communication and presence features. It is often integrated into applications for video conferencing, instant messaging and voice-over-IP to help each work seamlessly with one another.
With the right technology and protocols in place on the back end, administrators should think through the process of carrying out common telepresence tasks to ensure staff members using these solutions have everything they need to perform their duties appropriately. Displays and microphones used in video conferencing rooms or anywhere else telepresence is possible should meet high standards for quality and resolution. This will make it possible to take advantage of the capabilities of the network, assuming it's set up to transfer large amounts of data.
Video conferencing or telepresence systems work best over a dedicated network access point. If wireless network access is preferred or required, network administrators will need to verify that the system is able to deliver the same quality of service over Wi-Fi. Wireless routers and networking solutions are getting faster all the time, but there might still be concerns related to how data is transmitted that could prevent wireless users from enjoying a great telepresence experience.
If you're interested in getting your company's telepresence and UC systems operating at peak performance, reach out to the pros at Teo Technologies today to learn more.